Hunter raises eyebrows by scratching Hamrlik (healthy scratch, that is…he’s not literally scratching him, though that would also raise eyebrows)

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Dale Hunter’s first curious decision as Washington Capitals head coach is in the books. He’s made defenseman Roman Hamrlik a healthy scratch for tonight’s big game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s the first time the 19-year veteran has been a healthy scratch this season.

“It’s feeling,” Hunter explained to the Washington Times. “It’s one of those things that we just decide as a coaching staff.”

Hamrlik’s played all 23 games this season, recording 1G-0A-1PT with a minus-10 rating — so yeah, there are a few reasons to drop him from the lineup. The Caps are also carrying seven healthy defensemen, meaning someone had to be the odd man out. (Most recently, that guy had been Jeff Schultz.)

All that said, the move is still surprising. Even with Hamrlik’s anemic stats, he’s still averaging close to 20 minutes per game and leading the team in blocked shots (46). He’s also in the first season of a two-year, $7 million contract that makes him Washington’s third highest-paid blueliner.

Final note: If you say “scratch” over and over it starts to sound really weird. Go ahead, try it.